Back last summer I watched the BBC’s 1984 Chocky for The Aliens Are Here. I didn’t devote much space to it, as it’s a British production, but it was worth noting as an example of an ET Pied Piper guiding a human child — in this case with good intentions.
Finally I got around to reading the source novel, John Wyndham’s Chocky. It turns out the BBC version is extremely faithful to Wyndham’s story. Mark, a middle-class father, is bemused when his twelve-year-old, Matthew, suddenly acquires an imaginary friend, Chocky. Mark and his wife are more bemused when Matthew starts asking questions — why does it take two humans to reproduce — and arguing with his new friend over whether the family car is a crude means of transportation (Matthew’s very proud of the new car). And how is it Matthew’s math scores and his performance in art are suddenly through the roof?
Much like Wyndyham’s The Midwich Cuckoos, Chocky has come for our children. In this case, though, her goal is compassionate. Alien life is rare and like the rest of her people, she (the aliens are unisex, but Matthew decided Chocky is bossy like a girl) feels a duty to help it flourish. She planned to steer Matthew towards tapping cosmic energy as a clean power source; however he’s attracted attention from powerful people who would like to exploit his knowledge, so best she backs off. There are other children and next time she’ll be a little more subtle …
In contrast to the Triffids or the Cuckoos, this book gives us a genuinely friendly alien. With no real threat, it’s very low-key — even Matthew’s kidnappers are quite civilized and considerate — but even knowing what’s coming I found it engaging.
While Wyndham only gave us the one book, the BBC followed Chocky up in 1985 with CHOCKY’S CHILDREN. Matthew meets up with Albertine, a tween math genius, and discovers they can communicate telepathically. He soon realizes Albertine must be another of Chocky’s protegés, but unfortunately the men who kidnapped him once are still watching … In having the children come together it’s reminiscent of Children of the Damned. However where Chocky was for adults, this is much more kid-centric — though even by that standard, the final episode devotes way too much time to the kids’ fathers working things out. “After what happened with Matthew, I thought it best to keep myself secret from my other children.”
Finally things wrapped up with CHOCKY’S CHALLENGE (1986), with Matthew largely absent as Albertine leads a crew of teen geniuses in developing a cosmic energy power source. Unfortunately what Chocky intends as a gift for humanity, the military sees as a way to launch rockets cheaper and more efficiently (the power creates anti-gravity for flight). As Chocky’s determined to share her knowledge with the world, clearly the government must Do Something …
This follows Wyndham’s low-key approach; one astronomer, realizing she was wrong and Albertine right, immediately drops her opposition to the kids’ research. However the military response, which involves putting one of the kids in a coma for life, seems over the top even for kids’ show villains. And ultimately this doesn’t have the spark the original novel did. Still, I’ve certainly watched worse. “There will be times that your minds will ache with pain.”
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